The Toronto Marlies bounced back to their winning ways in Binghamton Friday night thanks to another stellar showing from Garret Sparks.
With a 4-1 victory, the Marlies secured their 10th win of the season and improved to 7-2-0 on the road.
The Devils began strongly and controlled the opening three minutes without ever really threatening Toronto’s net. On the balance of play, Binghamton deserved the game’s first goal, which they scored on a delayed penalty eight minutes in when Jacob MacDonald fired a low shot from the point that beat Sparks through a screen in front.
Despite outshooting the Devils 11-9 through the opening 20 minutes, the Marlies rarely troubled MacKenzie Blackwood between the pipes. His only moment of worry was an attempt by Rychel that rolled across the crease and away to safety.
Some good looks on Toronto’s first power play didn’t result in enough shots getting through, while the penalty kill had to be at its best to ensure it was only a one-goal deficit heading into the middle frame.
The second period was a lopsided affair as far as attempts on net, but Toronto scored on 50% of the shots they got through, tallying three times without reply in the process.
Miro Aaltonen took the bull by the horns as he drove hard to the net from the right side. Attempting to fire back across the seam, Blackwood made the initial save on Aaltonen but Nikita Soshnikov was on hand to fire the puck into the top right corner to tie the game just 94 seconds into the period.
Sparks was a passenger until the six-minute mark, but he was kept busy from that point on. Tim Kennedy led a 2-on-1 rush and decided to fake a pass, throwing Sparks off slightly, but the goaltender did well to deny an attempted top-shelf finish.
90 seconds later, Toronto should have scored a second after Trevor Moore stole the puck low in the slot, but neither he or Dmytro Timashov could apply the finishing touch.
Just a second shy of the midway mark, the Marlies grabbed the go-ahead goal as a power play expired. Johnsson carried the puck down the left and across the blue line before dishing off to Calle Rosen, who quickly found Timashov on the opposite wing. The diminutive winger drew three Binghamton forwards toward him and then picked the perfect moment to slip the puck to Rychel by the side of the net. Rychel attempted to find Johnsson waiting for a backdoor play, but the pass hit a defenseman’s skate in front and the puck squeezed its way past Blackwood.
Binghamton wasn’t deterred after falling behind and threw everything at Toronto in search of an immediate response. Joe Blandisi turned and fired in the slot, bringing a fine save from Sparks, who then had a shaky moment after overstretching on a bad angle attempt. The video review confirmed the puck hadn’t crossed the line.
A blast from Austin Cangelosi resulted in a brave block from Chris Mueller and Sparks then denied Ben Thomson as the loose puck bounced down to the blue paint.
Soshnikov almost doubled his goal tally but struck iron on an odd-man rush before Toronto faced a 5-on-3 penalty kill for 1:23.
The Marlies biggest special teams strength this season came to their aid, with Sparks only required to make one save and Colin Greening the latest player to lay down a great shot block.
The penalty killers were then rewarded by an unlikely candidate scoring a really pretty goal at the other end with two minutes remaining in the period. After Martin Marincin took a pass from Johnsson in the right circle, he wound up for a slapshot, bringing Blackwood out of his crease. The Devils netminder didn’t anticipate Marincin faking the shot, working his way around the goaltender, and slipping the puck into the net from the side of the net.
Toronto has yet to drop a point when leading after two periods, but this was a close call as Binghamton carried all of the play during the final 20 minutes.
Sparks twice turned aside Nick Lappin early in the frame with chances coming on both special teams for the Devils forward.
The Toronto goaltender then denied Blake Speers, Bracken Kearns and Blandisi, while Kerby Rychel made a terrific double shot block as Toronto were hemmed in inside their own zone.
The Marlies weren’t helping themselves with blown clearances but managed to ice the game with an empty-netter from Martin Marincin. The defenseman launched the puck almost 200 feet into the vacant cage to seal the 4-1 victory.
Post Game Notes
– A 33-save performance from Garret Sparks, who also recorded an assist on the fourth goal. Sparks now owns a 7-2 record and a .944 save percentage, and the latter leads all AHL goaltenders.
– Martin Marincin tallied twice, his first two goals in a Marlies uniform. He’s become an offensive threat for Toronto on the blue line, and you won’t see many better-taken goals this season than his first of the game. Marincin has accrued six points (2-4-6) in nine games since being sent down to the AHL.
– Kerby Rychel’s third goal of the season was his first since opening weekend (October 8), breaking a four-game pointless skid.
– Dmytro Timashov extended his point streak to four games (2-3-5) with an assist. That’s the second four-game hot streak for the winger this season.
– Calle Rosen picked up his fourth assist in seven games but is yet to open his goal-scoring account. He’s fired 19 shots during this road-trip and is due.
– Toronto went a perfect five for five on the penalty kill, with Binghamton’s goal coming on a delayed penalty.
– Friday’s lines: